24 July 2016

C S Lewis, and S John XXIII

Since Papa Bergoglio does not believe in making a fetich of Law, I suppose I am Out of Fashion in referring to the questionable training of our Catholic clergy. I refer to the scandal that for more than a generation those being formed for the priesthood were - in flagrant disregard of CIC 249 - not made fluent in Latin (are things any better now?).

As long ago as 1933, C S ('Patrimony') Lewis advanced the suggestion that the attacks - even then - upon the position of Latin and Greek as the basis of education, might be part of a plot devised in Hell to subvert the Faith. In The Pilgrim's Regress he reminds the reader that "till recently" members of our society "had been made to learn" these languages "and that meant that at least they started no further from the light than the old Pagans themselves and had therefore the chance to come at last" to saving Faith. "But now they are cutting themselves off even from that roundabout route ... and suppressing every kind of knowledge except mechanical knowledge". He believed that this shift had much to do with the need of the educated classes to cope with the increasing disinclination of the lower orders to work in domestic service, and added "No doubt the great landowners in the background [scilicet devils] have their own reasons for encouraging this movement".

You will not be surprised to be reminded that one such 'landowner', His Abysmal Sublimity Under Secretary Screwtape, strongly advocated the policy of preventing each generation from learning from its predecessors: "Since we [devils] cannot deceive the whole human race all the time, it is most important thus to cut every generation off from all others; for where learning makes a free commerce between the ages there is always the danger that the characteristic errors of one may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another." That is why the demise of sacred languages among the clergy and the clerisy is such a triumph for our Enemy. As we have seen recently, the problem becomes worse when Cardinals, Bishops, and/or their liturgical advisers, cannot parse accurately a simple piece of Latin.

Incidentally, we have here a fine argument for constantly rereading the older documents of the Magisterium ... not because they said every useful thing which would ever need to be said, or said everything in the best possible way, but so that "the characteristic errors of one generation may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another".

Older readers may remember the teaching given to the Universal Church by S John XXIII in Veterum sapientia. This was an Apostolic Constitution about the  necessity of Latin, which the good old man went to all the trouble of signing upon the High Altar of S Peter's itself. Frankly, I think his wisdom is all the more essential during this pontificate in which it appears to be held by people close to the Pontiff that there has been a sea-change which moves the Catholic Church on from the old paradigms.

Here I have a problem. I would love to share all the important bits of this Apostolic Constitution with you, but, after doing the two clicks necessary to bring it up on my screen, I realised that pretty well every word of this document is the purest gold. So ... here are just a very few words in order to stimulate your resolution to do those two clicks yourselves. "No-one is to be admitted to the study of Philosophy or Theology except he be thoroughly grounded in [Latin] and capable of using it ... wherever the study of Latin has suffered partial eclipse ... the traditional method of teaching the language is to be completely restored. Such is Our will ... the major sacred sciences shall be taught in Latin ... if ignorance of Latin makes it difficult for some [seminary professors] to obey these instructions, they shall gradually be replaced by professors who are suited to this task ..." NOTE that he could have left his encouragement of Latin in terms of vague and unthreatening general exhortations. There is, surely, something engagingly raw about his order for the wholesale sacking of seminary professors! Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? When I'm Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, there may have to be some changes at Allen Hall ... (but not including the removal of the admirable Fr John Hemer).

'Liberals', of course, might point out that this document is not ex cathedra (although the Altar of S Peter is not a million miles from the papal cathedra). I agree, because I think the adverb gradually is unnecessary.

As for sedevacantists who deny that the author of these wise words, S John XXIII, was truly pope, well, what I say is Burn the lot of them. It's the only sort of language these people understand!

1 comment:

mwidunn said...

"Venerable Confreres, may I be permitted also to speak about formation at the Major Seminaries? In its Decree Optatam Totius the Second Vatican Council set out important norms concerning this, not all of which, unfortunately, have been fully implemented.

This applies in particular to the implementation of the so-called "propadeutic course" prior to starting the actual course of study. Not only should it transmit a sound knowledge of the classical languages, required expressly for philosophical and theological studies, but also familiarity with the Catechism and with the Church's religious, liturgical and sacramental practices."


Benedict XVI, Address to German Bishops on Ad Limina Visit": http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2006/november/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20061110_ad-limina-germany.html